I want to take a short digression from my usual movie blogs to talk about something going on in Australia right now, so for any international readers (which I’m always amazed that I have, so, thanks!) here’s a quick background:

Unlike the UK, USA, Canada or about 20 other countries around the world, Australia has not yet legalised same-sex marriage. There are several reasons for this, none of them particularly good, but in short the last time we had a federal government left-leaning enough to have successfully passed the required legislation was in 2012 and they were busy ensuring they wouldn’t win the upcoming election through a combination of pig-headedness and backstabbing. The current government, our conservative party confusingly called the Liberals, have long refused to legislate same-sex marriage unless a public plebiscite is first held – kind of like a referendum, where politicians will be able to campaign for or against and the public will vote on the question. This has been shot down not once but twice in our Senate and now the Liberals are pushing for a postal vote instead.

The plebiscite in any form has met with considerable opposition from the LGBTI+ community, and this postal vote is no exception. The main problem is that holding a plebiscite in which parties can campaign for or against same-sex marriage opens the gates to tacitly-legitimised hatred and fearmongering against same-sex couples and LGBTI+ persons in general – for an analogue, look at some of the hateful anti-immigrant or anti-Europe rhetoric peddled in the Brexit campaigns last year – or the Trump campaign’s platform against Mexico, Islam, et cetera. In government, the opposition party has been aware of these objections to the plebiscite, which is why the idea has been struck down twice, and now there is talk of boycotting the postal vote. But I have to ask, if supporters of same-sex marriage boycott the vote, who are they really assisting?

Let me tell you a story about the 2013 election that, in part, got us into this situation. Labour (the current opposition party) had had two terms in office and was suffering from waning voter confidence due to their leadership troubles – this was the government in which the sitting Prime Minister was replaced twice. The Liberal party wasn’t looking much more popular, particularly among young voters, but there was at the time a sense of exhaustion with both major parties, something that seems to have become more and more common in the last few years. I remember hearing one particular conversation playing out again and again around university, the gist of which was “Why even bother voting? Why should we have to choose between the lesser of two evils?”

As I’ve already mentioned, the Liberal party (who, remember, are the conservatives here – I know) won the election. The very day after the result was announced, a friend of mine took to Facebook to lament the fact that she hadn’t bothered enrolling to vote. It was one of the lowest turnouts of young voters in an Australian election. What the hell did we think would happen?

This leads me back to the postal plebiscite. Do I think it’s a good idea? Of course not! It’s expensive, divisive, and mostly pointless – polls have shown that most Australians already support same-sex marriage, and even members of the Liberal party have shown dissatisfaction with the idea – over the last few weeks there was even talk of MPs crossing the floor to introduce a same-sex marriage bill and avoid the whole plebiscite situation. It’s well past time that LGBTI+ couples were afforded the same rights as anyone else, and frankly it’s ridiculous that in 2017 we’re still debating this. But, debating this we still are, and here’s the thing: If it should come to a postal vote to finally, absolutely, once and for all confirm to the Liberal party that Australia is ready for same-sex marriage, the ONLY people a boycott will assist are the people trying to restrict LGBTI+ rights. By refusing to vote, we refuse to be heard. We learned this in 2013 when young people failed to turn out to vote against the Liberals, we saw it in 2016 when the US election had one of the lowest voter turnouts in history. We do not need to be reminded again now.